KaiOS Technologies, which is developing an operating system for advanced feature phones, announced it has landed a surprising round of funding from Google.
The maker of the Android smartphone operating system led a $22 million round of funding for the Hong Kong-based startup. The two companies said in a press release that the goal was to create better phones that would “bring the internet to the next generation of users.”
“This funding will help us fast-track development and global deployment of KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones, allowing us to connect the vast population that still cannot access the internet, especially in emerging markets,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies, in a statement.
The company’s main product, KaiOS, is a web-based operating system that targets feature phones and IoT gadgets by demanding very little memory. The OS still allows such features as apps, GPS, 4G/LTE, and Wi-Fi.
The company has partnerships with handset manufactures such as HMD Global and Micromax, as well as carriers such as Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile.
Of course, Google’s Android is available on a wide range of low-cost smartphones, which have proved to be increasingly popular in developing economies. But while giving a boost to higher-end feature phones might risk eating into the low-end smartphone market, Google secured a partnership that includes plans to make Google Assistant, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Search available to KaiOS users.
“We want to ensure that Google apps and services are available to everyone, whether they are using desktops, smartphones, or feature phones,” said Anjali Joshi, vice president of Google’s Next Billion Users program.